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Is there an accountant-client privilege?

The attorney-client privilege is one of the most renowned laws regarding confidentiality of communication. However, other professionals, including accountants, are also required to observe this right. 

Here is what to know about accountant-client privilege:

Maryland Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings Section 9-110

In Maryland, a licensed certified public accountant (CPA) or firm cannot disclose the contents of any communication made to them by a client who employs them to audit, examine or report on any account, book, record or statement of the client.

Exceptions to this law 

There are exceptions to the attorney-client privilege. Firstly, a CPA can disclose protected information if the client permits them to. Note that permission cannot be implied. The client must clearly express permission. A personal representative or successor acting in the client’s interest may also give this permission.

Further, an accountant may disclose protected information to another licensed certified public accountant or a firm that conducts a quality review. 

Additionally, an accountant can disclose a client’s information if bankruptcy laws or criminal laws of the state apply. If a client commits a crime or files for bankruptcy, the accountant-client privilege can be waived to obtain adequate information about the client. For example, in a criminal tax case, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can subpoena any communication a client had with their CPA, including documents, notes, text messages and so on.

Lastly, if someone undergoes a regulatory proceeding by the State Board of Public Accountancy under certain circumstances, the accountant-client privilege may not apply to them. 

The accountant-client privilege exists. However, due to its numerous exceptions, it can be challenging to tell when an accountant breaches this law. If you believe your accountant didn’t act in your best interest, consider legal guidance to know your rights.